Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Pasta Carbonara

I came home this evening wanting to set the mood of a special occasion. Not because there is anything to celebrate. I simply had my fair share of simple meals. The last couple of weeks (if you haven't noticed) I have been cooking very simple dinners.  That's not to say they came from a box. They were more like -salmon, broccoli, and baked potato - kind of meals. Now before I go on, let me mention that there is NOTHING wrong with simple meals. I applaud people who take the time to make any meal at all, let alone one that doesn't come right out of a box. If it's simple, and you like it, you've accomplished something great! After all, food should be fun, EASY, and positively delicious.

As I thought of my meal plan for the week, I thought to myself - what better ingredient than bacon to make a night special? So there you have it. I created a meal which I'm sure most of you have heard of, with some bacon, peas, mushrooms, and sauteed onions. I guarantee, you will love this. It offers enough ingredients that it's not your average pasta dish. It isn't boring.

Ingredients
8 slices bacon, cut into small pieces
2 cups peas, fresh or frozen and thawed
1 small red onion, diced
6 oz fresh mushrooms (optional)
2 tbs butter
3 cloves garlic, pressed/smashed
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1 cup half and half cream
1 pint whipping cream
1 lb pasta
1 tsp olive oil
crushed black pepper
salt

Steps
Please note the small size

"I'm ready for my closeup Mr. Demille
 
1. Drizzle olive oil in a hot pan and toss in the bacon. Sautée bacon until it is crisp
2. Remove all the bacon from the pan, place it on a small plate, and toss in the onions and mushrooms. Sautée until mushrooms are golden brown and the onions are translucent then remove and place onto a separate plate
3. Bring a large pot of water filled 3/4 of the way to a boil. Once boiling, drizzle a bit of olive oil in the water and add pasta along a large pinch of salt
4. Drain the remaining bacon grease out of the pan, but use it to make an Alfredo Sauce by bringing bringing the butter, half-and-half, whipping cream, parmesan cheese, garlic, salt, and pepper to a simmer. The taste of the bacon will be hinted throughout the sauce
5. Once the pasta is al dente drain it in a strainer and serve it on a pasta plate
6. Pour a desired amount of sauce over pasta and top with the onions, bacon and peas. Give pasta a light toss and serve hot


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Lentil Soup


I travel about about once a month for 4-day-long periods. When I return, I guarantee there is nothing I want more than a meal I don't feel gross about after eating it. You know what I'm talking about. There's always that meal that you crave, you swear that it will make your day and give you a beautiful feeling that will make you sing till the end of time. And then you digest your food and wonder "why, why did I let myself eat all that...again?"  Imagine doing that for FOUR DAYS STRAIGHT. As I'm sure many of you know, there aren't many healthy options on the road. And even if you find them, that's the last thing you want after working all day. You're alone for crying out loud! You need something to distract from the fact that you're hundreds of miles away from home! So why not get that one dish at that one restaurant that you NEVER go to or eat.
But I get home and think, "Hmm, I could for something fresh, delicious, and that requires me to be in the kitchen for a little bit" (Yes I know, I sound crazy to most of you).  After returning this past trip, I decided to make lentil soup. It was a great decision and I'm certain it will be the first recipe (for many of you) that includes chard. Don't be afraid of this multicolored beauty. It's jam-packed with nutrients and offers a unique taste to switch things up. It's delicious in soups and sautéed. So take down some notes and try this new fun, easy, and positively delicious soup...Just look at the ingredients for crying out loud! It's also very wallet-friendly!

Ingredients:
1 bunch chard, washed and chopped into 1 inch or bite-size pieces (red or green will do)
1 onion, diced
1 bag dried lentils
juice of 1 1/2 lemons
2 cloves garlic, pressed
extra virgin olive oil
black pepper
salt
8 cups water
(Chard) --Isn't it beautiful?!

Steps:
1.Drizzle olive oil in a deep pot and toss in garlic, and onions. Sautée on medium high until onions are translucent
2. Add chard and stir repeatedly, allowing it to soak up the flavors
3. Add lentils along with the rest of the ingredients tot he pot.
4. Lower heat to medium and put the lid over the soup while it cooks for about a half hour
5. Taste check to see if the lentils are cooked enough. If not, let it cook for a little longer while checking it every few minutes to make sure they don't get mushy. Feel free to add more water if you don't prefer a thicker consistency.
6. Serve hot and enjoy!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Famous Karam Salad

For those of you who are dearest to my heart, you'll know me for a few things. 1. I'm obsessed with food, 2. I'm very animated and always up for a laugh,and  3. I grew up in a family who values a delicious, yet simple treasure: The Karam Salad.
I have heard repeatedly, "why don't you post that recipe?! It's so delicious".  It's so good, that my friend's husband proposed to her WITH our salad being the main attraction (apart from the ring and bottle of champagne of course)! It's practically an icon! So with all of that said, you'll be pretty surprised as to how simple this recipe is. There are only a few ingredients which makes this salad fun, easy, and positively delicious!

Ingredients
You can use any ingredient you want in this salad. However, I'd stay away from cheese. The texture and creaminess interferes with the freshness of the dressing. But whatever floats your boat!
I typically use chopped romaine lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers.  

Dressing: 
1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, smashed (preferably with a mortar and pestle) into a paste
1 tsb salt
the juice of one small lemon

Mix all the ingredients for the dressing into the mortar and pestle after smashing the garlic. Pour over the salad and mix with your clean hands. Yes, I said hands. They are the best tools to ensure correct mixing.

Serve immediately and enjoy!





Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Collard Greens

I don't know if you've noticed, but I've been trying hard to incorporate new/different vegetables into my dinner plans.  One that I have not tried is collard greens.  Besides knowing that it is a lyric in the Veggie Tales theme song, I wasn't too knowledgeable on ways to cook it.  I must say, it was an interesting experience.  The leaves were tougher and more bitter than I thought they would be. Nonetheless, I made it work and it turned out to be something I will eat in place of the usual broccoli.

Another ingredient that has become a new "staple" in my kitchen is, brace yourself, bacon fat.  Yup, that's right. I said it. The queen of Extra Virgin Olive Oil has found something new to sautee food in.  As delicious as it is, nothing will EVER take the place of extra virgin olive oil.  The reason I dub bacon fat a "staple" is because every time I make bacon (every weekend) I figured I can save the fat and be resourceful rather than throw it down the sink. I used an old (and cleaned) pickle jar to store the fat in the refrigerator. I use a small spoon and scoop it out just as if it were spreadable butter.  It's been great so far! I've used it in a crock pot of green beans, and this recipe.   With all that said, I'm sure you can see that it is more of a southern-American ingredient, but I am happy to use it (in moderation)!  Take it from me folks, don't knock it till you try it!  

Ingredients
1 bunch collard greens, washed and chopped
2 tbs bacon fat, solidified 
1/2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 tbs sugar, granulated
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced

Steps
1. Chop greens into bite size pieces
2. Sautee onions, garlic, bacon fat, and olive oil over medium-high heat on the stove

3.  Once onions are translucent, mix in the collard greens until they have shrunk 
3. Add sugar and continue to stir every minute or so
4. Cook for about 15 minutes or until the greens are of a tender consistency 

Serve hot and enjoy this fun, easy and positively delicious side dish!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Parmesan Spaghetti Squash

OK, I know I've been a raving fanatic about spaghetti squash, but I'm here to tell you it's only going to get worse from here.  I just baked the squash for the first time (as opposed to zapping it in the microwave) and may I just say? YUM!!!!  Ladies and gents, tis the season for squash so head over to your pumpkin patch (or orchard as my husband likes to joke) and pick up a few of these. In my accidental experience, these puppies last quite a while. They also tend to blend in with the back of the white refrigerator.

This recipe really satisfied my savory craving tonight. I wanted something creamy and rich without the, well, creamy and rich part.  Serve this alongside a main protein and voilà, you have a meal that is fun, easy, and positively delicious!

Ingredients
1 spaghetti squash, the smaller, the better it will cook
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
2 cloves garlic, smashed 
2 tbs parsley, dry or freshly chopped
3 tbs unsalted butter
salt 

Steps
1. Spear the spaghetti squash evenly around the surface 

2. Bake in the oven at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 45-60 minutes, or until it is easy to cut through
3. Cut the squash in half, remove the seeds with a spoon, and shred the flesh with a fork to create the spaghetti consistency
4. In a large round skillet, melt the butter with garlic and parsley. Then toss in the rest of the ingredients and continue to toss the squash to mix the ingredients and prevent the consistency from getting mushy
5. Serve warm and enjoy!


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Kale Chips

Ever crave crunch, salt, and a constant chewing motion? Unfortunately, potato chips is the first staple that people go to to remedy this horrible yet inconsistent syndrome.  Ladies and gents, I have a solution. KALE CHIPS!! I'm sure you've heard about this fad.  Everyone's talking about it on the streets, and if you haven't heard about them yet...You're probably crunching on your potato chips too hard. Kale chips are extremely easy and FILLED with essential vitamins. As you all know, I prefer to eat healthy but am a firm believer in "everything in moderation!".  Here's a contradicting statement, no moderation is needed for kale chips. Brian and I literally ate a whole bunch worth within the span of two hours.

So rather than peeling open a bag of potato chips during your next Friday night film, take the short time to make this fun, easy and positively delicious recipe and munch away knowing that you're actually benefiting your body.

Ingredients
1 bunch kale
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
salt

1. Wash the kale and lay it on a paper towel to dry. Be sure to dry it well because excess water on the leaves will prevent them from getting crunchy in the oven
2. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit

3. Use scissors to separate the leaves from the stem and cut the leaves into bite size pieces

4. Place the kale in a large bowl and drizzle olive oil over it before tossing. Sprinkle some salt and make sure it is evenly distributed
5. On a large baking pan covered with parchment paper, spread out the kale so that it isn't overlapping and place it in the oven for about 7 minutes
6. Take the kale out, toss it in the pan to turn over the leaves and put it in the oven for another 7 minutes or until it has a crunchy consistency

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Julia Child is My Hero...


So I know that it's very cliche to make Julia Child my culinary hero, but let's be real, it's the truth!  If she is even the slightest bit similar to the Julia Child portrayed in the movie Julie & Julia then I can honestly say that we would be best of friends in another world. If you haven't seen the movie, (you best get on that), she is a woman who has just passed her middle-age point and has no idea what to do with her life. She tries to take on several different hobbies but does not gain a sense of satisfaction from them. She finally gives in to her passion for eating ("check!") and goes to culinary school, which at the time was dominated by men ("Check!").  She not only succeeds, but she blows everyone out of the water.  She goes on to taking a chance and putting all she has in her famous cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking, which to this day, is considered a staple of a thriving kitchen.

"So how do you relate to Julia Child", you say?  Well, I have an extreme passion for eating, I work in a world flooded with men, and I am taking a lot of risks in the culinary world (you'll find out what those are soon enough).  Although I am at a prime age of 24, I refuse to waste any time with my passion for cooking. The last thing I want to do is look back on these years and say "I really wish I did more with my passion". Forget that.

So all of this thrives off of my new purchase, a dutch oven! "What is a dutch oven", you say? It is similar to a Le Creuset (lay-crew-say) which is an extremely heavy pot used to braise and slow cook savory meals. The slow cooking technique, mixed with the tight suction of the lid creates an extremely flavorful dish which is worth every hour. Yes, I said hour. This is what Julia Child uses for a good portion of her meals, one famously being her Boeuf Borguignon.

I purchased mine at Sam's Club for a reasonable price.  This dutch oven is a bit more economical but still gets the job done!


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Christina's Quinoa Salad


I have a confession to make. I went to the gym today (first time in months) and managed not to break a sweat. No, I was not standing in a corner, yes I burned calories, and yes, I do think it was better than sitting on my butt.  For those of you who frequent the gym and are judging my "laziness"-- I felt quite accomplished even getting myself to step foot in that claustrophobic joint, infested with grunting men attempting to carry the weight of their car on their shoulders. It was such a disappointment that I might just take up running...and we all know how I feel about running.

Have you ever felt like you had to sacrifice a decent meal if you decide to go to the gym or do an activity after work? I once asked my friend how she is so regimented with her workouts and her response was, "The nights I workout, I know I am going to sacrifice a hot meal".

If that doesn't make me run from the gym (at least I'd be running) I don't know what will. Key word above is Sacrifice.  As you get to know me more, you'll know that one thing I will never cease to slack-off at is cooking. I am diligent and motivated by it.  And let's not forget the immediate reward following the hard work.

That all said, I have found a dish that does not take a long time and won't leave you feeling like you have to make another trip to gym to balance out your calorie intake. It is filled with fiber, protein and vitamins. Did I mention it's fun, easy and positively delicious?


Ingredients
2 bell peppers, chopped (try to use different colors
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 cucumber, chopped
1-16oz can of chicken, drained (*V- you can leave this out and add an extra can of black beans)
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can black olives, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 cups dried Quinoa
3 cups chicken broth (to make vegan, substitute chicken broth with water or vegetable stock)
3 cloves garlic, pressed or smashed
3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 tbs salt
pepper

Steps
1. Combine quinoa, dash of pepper, and broth in a pot and cook it over medium heat with the lid closed on the pot. It should take about 10-15 minutes. Keep an eye on it
2.Once the liquid has fully absorbed, pour the quinoa into a heat-safe salad bowl
3. Combine the rest of the ingredients into the bowl and stir well.


4. For best results, refrigerate for an hour prior to serving.
***If you have time, save the salad for the following day. It tastes even better after it has marinated for several hours****

Bon Appetite!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Christina's Stir Crazy Spaghetti Squash

I certainly wouldn't consider myself a health-freak, nut, and whatever other noun you want to add to the end of that. However, I love learning about all the health benefits from certain foods. I'm convinced I should have studied dietetics in college, the only downside was the science classes. No. Thank. You.

Unfortunately, it isn't uncommon to find people who don't know the nutritional difference between fruity cereal bars and natural fr,uit and oatmeal. Let me just tell you my friends, a difference exists. I'm not here to rave about how you need to change your lifestyle to zero carbs and fats. Trust me, I would not be able to survive without pasta or cheese. I am however, opening your eyes to healthy substitutes for your vices.

I just watched Parks and Recreation (a show that never ceases to make me laugh and be even more in like with Ron Swanson). This episode was about Leslie Knope attempting to tax these MASSIVE soda drinks that are considered "small" in the vain of Michael Bloomberg. Ironically enough, the realistic perspective is what made it so funny. Isn't that always the case?

Ever heard of the Paleo diet, I mean lifestyle? One of the many advocates,  Mark Sisson, has a blog titled Marks Daily Apple. If you're anything like me, you'll get hooked (hypothetically) and start to think about attempting this lifestyle.  I tend to do that. You know- read something, think incredibly ambitiously about the end result, and finally realize I'm sitting in the same position ten minutes later saying "I could really go for some ice cream at 10pm".  This all to say that I've seriously thought about attempting a Primal Living Lifestyle for a month straight. Unfortunately, such a LIFESTYLE means going to the gym as well. Ugh.

I'd like to think this recipe leads to a good start.  It's a very healthy meal that is nothing short of fun, easy and positively delicious.  It is filled with fiber, protein, and vitamins so you'll be satisfied for quite a while.


Ingredients
2 miniature Hungarian peppers, chopped and sans seeds
6 vine ripened tomatoes, chopped
3 zucchini's, sliced
1 large spaghetti squash
1 yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 15oz can plain tomato sauce
10oz mushrooms, chopped
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tbs dry oregano 
4 pieces chicken breast
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil

Steps
1. In a deep sautee pan, cook onions, garlic, peppers, and olive oil over medium heat until onions are translucent 


2. In another pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Once hot, cook the zucchini for only a couple minutes then transfer to the pan for the sauce
3. Add tomatoes, sauce, zucchini, mushrooms and seasoning into pan and stir sporadically (careful, this is a messy process with so many ingredients in pan)
4. In the pan you cooked zucchini in, drizzle a bit more olive oil and cook the chicken until the surface turns white

5. Place the almost fully cooked chicken into the sauce pan and cook for another 5 minutes (make sure it's immersed into the sauce so it absorbs all the delicious flavors)

6. Stab the spaghetti squash everywhere and cook it in the microwave for 10 minutes then let sit for a few minutes 
7.Cut squash in half and scoop out the seeds like you would for a cantaloupe. Then use a fork to shred apart the spaghetti squash and place it into serving dishes

8. Cover spaghetti squash with sauce and chicken and serve hot

Bon Appetite!





Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Sauteed Hungarian Peppers and Mushrooms

Last weekend was the first time Brian and I went to the Montgomery farmer's market and let me just say, it was an absolute blast!  Any place where there is live indy music, fresh baked goods and produce, and happy dogs with their owners, it's nothing short of golden. The items we purchased goes as follows: Zucchini carrot bread for my in-laws, heirloom tomatoes for my parents, and large zucchinis, miniature Hungarian peppers and cupcakes for Brian and I. Everything was delicious and I can't wait to go back!

The peppers are the last ones standing and I have used them for a few dishes thus far. I made a delicious guacamole (see Guacamole post and just add diced peppers) and sauteed mushrooms.  It is a very easy side dish that will go well with any entree. 

Serves: 2-4         Prep time: 5 minutes           Cook time: 10 minutes

Ingredients
1 lb sliced mushrooms (button or crimini will work just fine)
3 miniature Hungarian peppers, diced
2 cloves garlic, sliced thin
1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp nutmeg
Salt
Pepper

Steps
1. Wash and slice mushrooms if they aren't already (use a damp cloth to wash the mushrooms because they absorb water easily)
 2. Remove the seeds from the peppers prior to dicing
3.Pour the olive oil in a hot sautee pan/skillet on medium heat
4. Once oil gets hot enough, combine the rest of the ingredients in the pan and stir repeatedly until the mushrooms take on a tender consistency
5. Serve hot and enjoy!







Monday, September 10, 2012

Shrimp, Mushroom and Zucchini Risotto

It's about 8pm in Cincinnati and I am having a wonderful day thus far. The weather was absolutely gorgeous today, I made a delicious meal, and my husband offered to clean the kitchen for me.  Against my meticulous judgement when it comes to cleaning the kitchen, I let him... and he did a great job!

It was in the midst of constantly stirring the risotto that I homed in on how therapeutic cooking is for me.  Have you ever been by yourself in a moment when you realize you're doing something you were naturally made to do? OK, yes, I understand I sound like a hippie walking out of a Phish concert, but It's true! I was stirring the risotto and realized just how content I was.  As some of you may know, I call food "edible art".  I'm quite sure that is a term I cannot patent and that everybody in their own sense thinks that way about food.  But have you ever considered just how important and influential it is for life's most joyous moments? 

Two years ago I suffered through some serious stomach issues and ended up not being able to eat for a week straight so the doctors could figure out what was wrong with me. Did I mention that New Year's Eve fell smack-dab in the middle of that one-week period?  It was horrible. I had no idea how much my life revolved around food until that week. Yes, I always knew I loved to eat. As Julia Child said "...I love to eat and I'm good at it!" Holidays however, are times when food is a staple within each hour and if you're not eating, you're drinking (pick your beverage of choice).  My family and friends were eating food and drinking champagne and beer while I on the other hand, drank Lipton soup.  All this to say, the entrance into 2011 was sub-par in my book.

I don't say all that to complain. I say it to prove just how thankful I am for the gift and love of making art, I mean food, I mean art! Even if you're only cooking for yourself, live it up and make it special! Set the table and forget about having to clean more or prepare more. You only live once so bask in the meals you've worked so hard to prepare, and remember, it's a gift!

So I sit here now, sipping my Dundee dark stout beer and thinking about how delicious tonight's meal was. I am a happy woman.

Ingredients                       Serves: 4-6                   Prep time: 15                Cook time: 40 minutes
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
3 long zucchini sliced into larger bite sized pieces (I did a thicker julienne cut)
8 oz fresh sliced mushrooms
10 oz fresh shrimp with tails and shell removed (if purchased frozen, thaw them before cooking with them)
3 tbs unsalted butter
6 cups chicken broth
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 minced garlic
1 cup dry white wine (I used Chardonnay) 
1 tsp crushed rosemary 
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
2 tbs salt
1 tbs black pepper, crushed

Steps
1. Melt butter and olive oil in a deep sautee pan over medium heat (butter for flavor, olive oil for cooking- it also prevents the butter from burning)
2. Add garlic and onion then begin stirring until the onions are translucent 
3. Add shrimp, white wine, rosemary, some salt and pepper to the pan. 
4. Let the shrimp cook for a few minutes while stirring every so often
5. Add the vegetables and continue to toss/stir 
6. Add the broth to the vegetables and bring it to a slight boil
7. Once it boils, turn down the heat low and place the arborio rice into a deep sauce pan over medium heat
8. Stir the Arborio rice continuously and slowly add a couple ladles full of broth from the pot with the vegetables and shrimp. Be sure to scrape the bottom of the pot because the rice is very sticky
9. Once you've used the last bit of broth and tasted the rice to be sure it is fully cooked, add the Parmesan cheese and stir one last time
10. Add the rice to the vegetables and shrimp and stir to mix everything together
11. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve hot!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

YiaYia Approved Spanakopita

OK, so I don't have a Greek grandmother to invite into my kitchen and try my Spanakopita. I did however get a few tips from my Greek friend Kristi who used to watch her YiaYia cook it. Unfortunately, I am not at the level where I make it look as easy as making a bowl of cereal. Nevertheless, I did it and did it darn well on my first attempt. I apologize for my lack of modesty, but when you manage to cook this item, I give you full bragging rights because it is not the easiest dish to make. It is however, extremely delicious and worth the attempt. Remember the post I wrote about going out on the limb and trying out a new challenging recipe? (See pasta alfredo post).  Well, add this number to the list. You truly feel empowered once you've tried your first bite. Especially if you're as lucky as I am and have a Greek friend to give it two-thumbs-up!

I decided to make this recipe on a whim when I realized I had a couple hours to spare.  It was take a nap, or get my butt up and get a few ingredients from the store to make the Spanakopita.  I am ashamed to say that the nap came in as a very close second.  I fetched the three ingredients I didn't have and came home to take on the challenge.  You'd be surprised of what measures you take in order to use up the large amount of food that is about to expire.  In my case, it was feta cheese that I convinced myself I needed a couple of months after being married.  Did I mention I purchased this number at Costco? We all know where this is going.  Let me give you some advice...If you are a family of two, unless you're planning on cooking for a Greek army in the next few months, do not purchase the tub of crumbled feta cheese.

Regardless, I ended up making a Lebanese feta salad (see one of my first posts) and Spanakopita.  Add some wine and you have a deliciously ethnic meal. This dish is fun, sort of easy, and positively delicious!

Ingredients
2 large bags or 3 bunches spinach
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 bunch scallions (green onions) finely chopped
6oz crumbled feta cheese
5oz part skim ricotta cheese
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 egg
12 sheets filo dough
2 tbs melted butter

Steps
1.  In a pot, bring 4 cups of water to a boil and steam the spinach for 4-5 minutes
2. Drain spinach and squeeze out any excess water
3. In a deep pan, combine onions, scallions, and extra virgin olive oil and cook on medium heat until onions are translucent
4. Add spinach and remaining ingredients to the pan and take off the heat after stirring enough to completely mix ingredients together
5. Bring out filo dough from freezer and CAREFULLY place on a flat surface (filo dough is extremely fragile and can tear very easily)
6. Slit a few lines into the filo dough creating 3 slices of filo dough
7. Be sure to use 3 layers of dough for each spanakopita
8. Use a kitchen brush to spread a small amount of melted butter over the dough

9. Use a small spoon to scoop out a small amount of filling and place it near the corner an edge.  Fold over the corner and continue folding (pretend you're folding a paper football you used to flick into a little goal in class)

My hands were too messy to take a picture of the process. ^Compliments of Google.

 10. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes
Serve hot and enjoy!!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Broccoli Cheddar Stuffed Chicken

May I just say, this weather is absolutely breathtaking!! Yesterday Brian and I went to the Cincinnati Blues Festival and we danced the night away. If you were there and witnessed that, we're glad we could provide you with some laughs and you're welcome!

This weather has brought out our tennis moves and I am happy to say that I have continued with the 30 day challenge by playing tennis about 4 times a week.  It's been so enjoyable that I think the 30 day challenge is over yet I don't even care. I have thoroughly enjoyed playing tennis AND posting to the website every week. Thank you TED Talks (see New Year's Resolution in July).  Along with great weather comes more time spent outdoors. Hanging out in mother nature's territory is all well and good but this means less time in the kitchen.  For some of you, I'm sure that's a good thing. For others, well, you would just rather sit indoors and create new recipes. That's fine by me, but here's a recipe that allows you to have the best of both worlds.  It's VERY easy to make to the point that we played a game of tennis while it was in the oven. How's that for multitasking?

As I'm sure most of you have experienced, chicken can get boring quickly.  I'm the type of person that (spoiler alert) loves flavorful food and refuses to eat bland meals. If I don't enjoy the taste of something, I won't waste my time, calories and efforts to eat it. The good news is that I'm not picky. The only food I can honestly say I seriously dislike is blue cheese.  Call it what you want, Gorgonzola or Blue De Gex but it is still blue cheese. Sorry peeps. I know that as an aspiring chef I should love everything in site but I'm only human and something's gotta give.

As I was saying, chicken falls into the bland category.  Chicken is one of the few foods that if eaten solely by itself is not too enjoyable.  Add a couple of ingredients to it however and you've got a savory dish!  This recipe is one that combines a couple food groups I love most with a protein that shouldn't be taken for granted: vegetables, dairy and chicken. I highly recommend you try this out and don't be afraid to venture into new ideas.  Think of different ingredients you can use to stuff the chicken.  The world is your oyster and the possibilities are endless.

Serves: 2         Prep time: 15 minutes     cook time: 30 minutes (add about 10 minutes per added chicken breast)
Ingredients
2 chicken breasts
1/2 cup frozen broccoli florets
2 oz sliced cheddar cheese
2 tbs condensed cream of broccoli soup
1/2 cup (Italian) bread crumbs
1 tbs melted butter
salt
pepper
tooth picks

Steps
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit
1. lay one long piece of Saran (plastic) wrap on an open counter space
2. place the chicken breasts on top of the wrap and fold over the wrap so that it covers the chicken evenly
3. use a mallet to pound the chicken and thin it out. Be sure not to pound it too thin that it tears apart. You want the chicken to still be in one piece. **If you do not have a mallet, use a small pan/skillet.
4. unwrap the chicken and place it on a large plate, and season with salt and pepper
5. spread 1tbs of soup on each breast and follow with the slices of cheese and broccoli
6. in order that the chicken does not fall apart, be sure to wrap it into a tight roll
7. use toothpicks to keep the chicken together
8. place the stuffed chicken into a bowl of breadcrumbs and lightly toss it up and down so that the crumbs cover the chicken evenly
9. place the chicken on an aluminum foil wrapped pan
10. drizzle the melted butter over the chicken
11. bake it in the oven
12. Serve hot and enjoy!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Linguine con Alfredo

Hello culinary fanatics!  It is Sunday and for once in a very long time I am enjoying it to its fullest rather than doting on the fact that tomorrow is Monday.  If you've done your homework and read the previous post, you are most likely anticipating the delicious pasta recipe  (see Simply Caprese).  This pasta dish is one of my favorite pasta dishes.  Unfortunately it is not a nutrition booster, so I consider it a decadent indulgence.  I usually let a couple of months go by before considering it again. Reason being, once I get something in my head, it's stuck there until I act on it. 

If today is the day that you are wanting to indulge and enjoy the good life, take a bite out of it and cook something fantastic!  It doesn't have to be this recipe.  There are plenty of others before this one.  Take some time to really think about what you want to eat, and make it!  What do you have to lose?  Here's my theory: People spend too much time thinking of what they want to eat and much less time actually being proactive and cooking it. Eventually they come up with enough reasons not to make the effort to put together a substantial meal and end up making a sandwich or getting take-out.  I have one word for that--Unacceptable. 

Reap the benefits of putting your heart and time into something you want.  You'll be so proud of yourself in addition to having a satisfied stomach.  You'll be surprised that something this good can be so fun, easy and positively delicious!

Serves: 6-8                            Prep-time: 1-2 minutes                               Cook-time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

1 quart heavy whipping cream
2 tbs unsalted butter
3 cloves minced/pressed garlic
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
salt
pepper
chopped basil for garnish

Steps:

Pasta:
1. Bring water in a deep pot to a boil
2. Add a tablespoon of salt and quick drizzle of olive oil to the water
3. Place pasta in boiling water and follow the cooking directions on the box
******DO NOT BREAK THE PASTA IN HALF.  Breaking the pasta makes it very difficult to twist with a fork and takes away from the presentation of the dish**********
4. Drain pasta and splash it with a bit of (hot) water so that it does not stick together

Sauce:
1. In a deep sauce pan, melt butter on medium heat then add garlic
2. Add cream then stir every few minutes down to the bottom of the pan to prevent sticking or burning
3. Once cream is lightly boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low and add the cheese
4. Continue to stir then add salt and pepper to taste
5. If a thicker consistency is preferred, whisk the sauce for about five minutes on low heat
6. Twist a bed of pasta onto a small plate and pour the sauce over it with a ladle
7. sprinkle a bit of chopped basil atop the pasta bed to add color and flavor

Serve immediately and pair it with a crisp white wine and light salad (caprese).
Bon Appetite 


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Simply Caprese

Hello all! I hope you all find yourselves enjoying delicious food and memories this week! If not, you should get on that.  As much as I love to cook, there are times when I just need to make something simple yet delicious. Allow me to pique your interest with the fruit of the season (tomatoes).  In case you're raising an eyebrow, please know that anything with seeds is technically a fruit. But then what about a cucumber or zucchini? Quite honestly, after researching the topic long enough, I decided both are delicious and equally important to your diet..."to-may-to, to-ma-tow"

This lovely and delicate dish is very easy to make with only a few ingredients.  I will warn you however, this goes better aside an entree rather than being the main attraction. Let's just say, it's not the most filling dish on this website. Unless you're on a strict diet (as if I know what that is) you should probably pair it with a pasta or chicken dish.

 I truly believe that there are two things that make spending time with friends even more enjoyable--wine, and food.  I had the wonderful opportunity of spending some much needed time with my friend, Debbie last Friday.  We drank, and cooked, and ate, and talked about cooking and ate some more. It was outstanding! I made a pasta dish (featured in next post) and decided I needed to add some color to the meal.  Debbie has a garden and she was kind enough to bring three different herbs over; spearmint, peppermint, and basil.  I am jealous that she always has these at her fingertips. No pun intended.

Prep time: 5 minutes         Serves: 2


Ingredients
2 vine ripened tomatoes
6 3/8in thick slices fresh mozzarella cheese
8 leaves basil
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
salt
pepper

Steps
1. slice the tomatoes into even slices and place each one on its own plate
2. slice mozzarella into 6 even slices and place three evenly atop the tomatoes
3. place washed basil leaves atop the mozzarella
4. drizzle extra virgin olive oil
5. sprinkle salt and pepper to taste

Enjoy!


Sunday, July 15, 2012

Risotto con pollo e funghi



I was flipping through my Better Home and Garden cookbook given to us by my brother-in-law (thanks Matthew!) and I daringly turned to the pasta section. Can I just say? Pasta is the one thing I will never give up no matter what eating trend I find myself in.

Side note: Today I am starting a 30-day challenge. I heard a segment of a podcast on TED Talks (I highly recommend this) about how people can create habits and routines within 30 days Click here for podcast. The speaker (Matt Cutts) started biking to work and now loves it.  As we established earlier, I tend to stick to my goals when I broadcast them to the public. That way, if I fail at them, I've got more than just my own disappointment to worry about.  With that said, I've decided to work out 3 days/week. Call this what you want, but it is definitely a goal that will be challenging for me. I have never worked 3 days/ week consecutively. IT'S NOT FUN! Therefore, I don't enjoy it.

This brings me back to eating trends.  People think that if they just cut out that one "poisonous" food group, they will drop pounds like flies. As true to an extent as this might be, I am the first to say "everything in moderation". People need to enjoy their lives to their fullest and we all know where one of my most important joys stems from: FOOD.

As I flipped through the delicious pastas, I stopped myself at "Risotto". I have made this rich dish once before but it had been several years. I read through the recipe and no offense to BHG cookbook, but the first thought through my mind was "this has so much more potential"! I used the recipe as my base, and let my imagination do the rest.

I must say (modestly), I absolutely love when an new original recipe turns out to be a hit. It is what I am most proud of. I would equate it to someone doing really well on a test. Same goes for a day-job. It's just my thing.

So here is my recipe for my Parmesan risotto with chicken and mushrooms in a savory-cream sage sauce. See why I translated the name into Italian? It's straight-forward and to the point. Also, you cannot deny how beautiful it sounds. I will say, I was hesitant to put this on my website because it is not the easiest meal to make (it requires a good amount of multitasking). However, if you are up for a challenge, it is definitely worth the 1 hour cooking time and multitasking required to make it. Awe, heck- I'm going to go ahead and dub this recipe fun, ALMOST easy, and positively delicious.

Ingredients
1 small finely chopped onion
2 cups half and half (cream and milk)
1 clove minced garlic
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 tbs butter
12-24 oz fresh sliced mushrooms (depending on how much of a mushroom-lover you are)
1/4 pound chicken breasts
1 1/2 cup arborio rice
32 oz chicken broth
1 tsp sage
salt
pepper


Steps:

1. Begin by bringing the broth to a light boil in a small pot
2. Sautée onion, garlic and 2 tbs butter into a medium pan until the onions are translucent
3. Mix in arborio rice and stir for a couple of minutes to give it a toasted taste
4. Use a large ladle to pour boiling broth into the arborio rice. STIR REPEATEDLY. Make sure it is cooked entirely (without burning the rice) before adding the next ladle. This process is what makes the rice sticky.
5. While you're stirring the rice and broth, sautée the remaining butter with the mushrooms until they are lightly browned on medium heat. "Don't crowd the mushrooms, otherwise they won't brown" -Julie and Julia
6. Pour the half -and-half over the mushrooms and make sure to stir repeatedly so the cream doesn't curdle or boil over
7. Add the chicken and sage to the mushrooms and make sure it is fully covered by the cream. Flip repeatedly to ensure even distribution of heat
8. Once you pour your last ladle of broth into the rice, add Parmesan cheese and stir one last time. The consistency should be significantly thicker than the beginning.
9. Once the chicken is cooked to its fullest, dish out a small portion of rice onto a plate and cover with mushrooms and chicken.

For garnish, use finely chopped parsley.

Bon appetite


Monday, July 9, 2012

A Mojo for Mojito


Yesterday, we celebrated my father's **th birthday. It was probably one of the best times we've shared celebrating the day that Pops was born. My family came over to our home and we had a little fiesta a la cumpleaños (birthday party).

For appetizers, I made my famous Mexican dip (see previous post) while my sister made my guacamole recipe (see previous post). The main course consisted of my Lebanese potato salad (see previous post) grilled steaks (thanks to my grill-master) and grilled tomatoes (I highly recommend trying). It was a delicious evening! 

As great as that all was, there is one fact that cannot be denied... All that is not the same without a summer celebration cocktail (pardon me for sounding like Sandra Lee, it will not happen again).  In the backyard of my parents house stands about 2 square feet of tall, fresh mint leaves.  These have been growing ever since I can remember and my parents have always incorporated fresh mint leaves into our meals. I highly recommend drying, crushing and sprinkling some over cold salads and even freshly scrambled eggs. That sounds odd but you won't regret it. Think of it as a substitute for black pepper, or even your habitual hot sauce douse. 

Anyway, my sister had the excellent idea to have a themed drink throughout the evening. Being Lebanese, this is not a foreign concept during gatherings. She decided to make Mojito's! After a few trial runs, we perfected the recipe! It was a popular choice and everyone was beyond satisfied with this refreshing, summer drink. This quick drink recipe is the first non-food item that has made it on the list of food AND drink that is fun, easy and positively delicious!

Simple Syrup: (quantity can vary depending on how much you plan on using) 
QUICK TIP: This can be saved and refrigerated for later use

2 cups water
2 cups sugar

Pour the water and sugar in a small to medium sauce pan and bring to a boil.  Make sure to continue to stir and let it simmer until the sugar is completely dissolved. 

Mojito

1/4 lime
1 oz simple syrup
2 oz white rum
3 oz club soda
4-5 mint leaves
ice

1. In a tall and narrow glass, muddle the (washed) mint leaves enough to break the mint leaves into small pieces. If you do not have a muddler, simply rip the mint leaves like paper until they are in small pieces
2. Fill the cup with ice but make sure to leave enough room for the liquids
3. Squeeze the slice of lime into the cup
4. Mix in the rest of the ingredients then stir lightly
5. If the glass has enough room, add more ice and a slice of lime for garnish

Cheers to summer and all the joys it brings! 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

New Year's Resolution in July


I think that New Year's resolutions are extremely overrated. Let's be honest, they're made to be broken.

I just took a trip to be in one of my best friend's wedding up in northern Michigan this past weekend and may I just say, I no longer think of dirty Detroit when I hear the "Pure Michigan" commercials. It was absolutely BEAUTIFUL! Brian and I visited three main locations: Frankfort (Crystal Lake), Sleeping Bear Dunes, and good ole' touristy Traverse City.

I not only had a fabulous vacation with my husband, I also learned a lot about myself. For one thing, I'm the type of person who has to state my new hopeful achievements in order to follow through with them. That's when I had a conversation with a lovely friend (Hannah Stone) and had an epiphany. 

I am starting my New Year's resolution's in July. People joke about Christmas in July, why can't I recreate my resolutions then as well?  Better late than never I say!

So here's the plan, I am going to post to my devoted and long lost love (my website) AT LEAST once a week. I am also changing the format. It does not have to always include recipes and restaurant experiences.  I think about food all the time. Anyone who knows me will vouch for that. So why not stay devoted to my website regardless if I cooked a new recipe or not? 

I have heard too many complaints and feel very shamed for continuously claiming future consistency in posting. THIS IS IT! CONSIDER THIS MY OATH.

With that said, I brought home three lovely souvenir's from the quaint and lively Traverse City, MI. Spoiler alert, they all are correlated with food. We stopped in an olive oil and vinegar store. I have never heard of something of the sort until I read about it in the travel guide. Fustini's is a tactful store with an ambiance that is welcoming and straightforward. All four walls are lined with intriguing canisters filled with oils and vinegars hinted with fruits, herbs and more of life's greatest joys (e.g. espresso).  It is quite an interesting experience! I purchased a peach flavored white vinegar along with an olive oil cruet that has been on my wishlist for quite some time. (Thank's Brian for being such a great sport with my indecisiveness!) Both I used with great success today! 


We also visited an old book shop called The Bookie Joint where it maintains its charm by continuously trading old/new books. Side note, I have never seen so many romance novels in one area. After searching high and low for a book for which I am willing to forego the library, I finally found the perfect one! Cooking For Two caught my eye and after flipping through the pages, I put my stamp of approval that this book can offer meals that are Fun, Easy and Positively Delicious! It is a great way to incorporate cooking into your relationship. I am lucky to have a husband who is eager to help, and this book helps us find ways to really enjoy the process together. It has worked so far!

So check out some of these sites I have provided. Consider a possible trip to "Pure Michigan". I highly recommend Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes, and Traverse City.

As always, bon appetite!

Friday, April 20, 2012

April showers bring...Cinco de Mayo!

I think we can all agree that the weather in north America has been completely out-of-whack; in Cincinnati anyway.  One day we're experiencing 85 degree Fahrenheit then the next day we need a jacket. Either way, two things remain certain. One, it is the month of April. And two, it has definitely been raining!  One thing comes to mind as we creep toward the end of this shower period... CINCO DE MAYO IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER!

You don't have to be in Mexico to appreciate this wonderful holiday.  People in the United states observe it as well! If you live in neither of those countries I say strap a sombrero to your head and say "O'lay!" anyway because this guacamole is worth celebrating over! This is a fun, easy and positively delicious recipe with very few ingredients and steps!

Serves: 6-8
Prep time: 20 minutes


Ingredients
-4 medium avocados
-4 cloves smashed garlic
-1/4 finely chopped red onion
-1 large lime
-pinch of salt
-1 bag tortilla chips

Steps
1. Slice in half, pit and peel the avocado by using a paring knife. Try cutting the avocado while still in the skin in a checkerboard pattern. Then flip it over and push it out of the skin into a medium size bowl. That makes it easier but takes longer.
2. Using a medicine mallet or hand held garlic smasher, smash the garlic until it is extremely fine.  If you are using the mallet, add a pinch of salt to the garlic before smashing to make it easier.  
**The salt grinds help break down the garlic**
3. Dice the onion until it is extremely fine (nobody likes to chew on a large piece of onion)
4. Use a hand-held mixer or fork to mash the avocado. Be careful not to mash it too much or else it will lose the intended thick consistency 
5. Juice the lime over the avocado and stir in the rest of the ingredients
6. Serve with tortilla chips and enjoy!





Monday, April 9, 2012

Pasta Skaloozi

I am horrible. No need to tell me twice. I completely realize that I have not even typed my website in the URL box since January. I am ashamed and my greatest apologies go out to you...that is, if you are still there.  I have a good reason for my negligence! I recently got married and moved into a new home with my husband (Brian). That along with a honeymoon and other serious stresses that come with planning a wedding have negatively impacted my attention to my precious little hobby.

Enough of that, you get the drift. Now lets stop moping and start cooking!!!

This is one of the first dishes I made as a married woman. It is a concoction that I'm pretty sure does not exist out there, until now that is. In order to patent this creation, I named it something outrageous. How did I come up with Pasta Skaloozi you ask? It is catchy, fun to say, and quite frankly the first thing that came to mind. My husband thinks it's "so cheesey" but I tell you this: What will you remember more, chicken and vegetable pasta or pasta skaloozi? So say it a few times! Go ahead, I won't tell anyone. You'll see how fun it is to say.  It will be even more fun to order it in a restaurant one day. Just saying.  Here's how I make it... (I really should stop giving my recipes away for free)...Either way, this gets the stamp of approval for an original recipe that is fun, easy and positively delicious!

Serves: 4
Ingredients
-6 vine ripened tomatoes
-4 chicken breasts (if frozen, make sure they are thawed completely prior to cooking)
-1 small to medium finely chopped yellow onion
-3 cloves smashed garlic with a pinch of salt
-1 box whole wheat penne pasta
-2 zucchini
-1/2 lb fresh cut green beans (not frozen or canned)
-1 lb fresh cut mushrooms (not frozen or canned)
-1/2 lb fresh cut carrots
-3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
-1 tsp oregano
-1 tsp Italian seasoning

Directions
1. Sautee garlic, onion and olive oil in a medium to large frying pan
2. Stir frequently so the onion cooks evenly
3. In the meantime, chop the tomatoes into small cube pieces
4. Pour the tomatoes along with their juice in the pan. Cook on medium heat
5. Once the tomatoes start to create a sauce, place chicken breasts in the pan
6. While the chicken is cooking, drizzle some extra virgin olive oil in a deep hot pan
7. Place the cut vegetables in the pan and stir frequently to cook evenly for about fifteen minutes or until golden
8. Turn chicken over and cook until completely white on the inside 
9. As the chicken continues to cook, pour pasta in a large pot of boiling water and follow the directions on the box
Serve hot... Bon a petite! 






Sunday, January 8, 2012

Winter Chills for Chili!

I'm going to throw myself out there and be completely honest- I am a sucker for visual marketing. I caught a glimpse of a movie that always amused me in my teenage years and the minute that happened, I was sucked in.  The Parent Trap (with Lindsay Lohan before she ended up as a crack-head) is filled with wonderful culinary novelties like Oreo's and Peanut Butter, delicious large breakfasts that will set your heart racing and finally Cornbread and Chili. Hearing the words "Cornbread and Chili" made me react like a dog to a fine tuned whistle.

With that said, I decided to make cornbread and chili for the first time ever...from scratch...with my very own recipe. You know when you decide to take on a new hobby and halfway through your adrenaline fails and you wonder if the scrap-booking or knitting is really going to work? That's how I felt with the chili. However, I am proud to report that it was a great success and I can hardly wait to taste it tomorrow (soup and chili is always better the next day).

If this post has served as a visual marketing and you decide to make the chili, I have two things to say; One, my post has served its purpose; and two, make sure you get enough chili powder!

Ingredients:
CHILI
-1/2 green bell pepper
-2 lbs ground sirloin beef
-1 chopped onion
-2 minced garlic cloves
-2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
-1/4 tbs oregano
-1 1/2 tbs salt
-1 tsb crushed red pepper
-4 tbs chili powder
-3 (14.5oz) cans pinto beans
-5 cups of water

CORNBREAD 
-1 box JIFFY corn muffin mix
-1 egg
-1/3 cup milk

Steps:
1. Follow the steps on the back of the JIFFY box and let the cornbread sit aside while you make the chili
2. Place the chopped onion, green pepper and minced garlic in a deep pot with the extra virgin olive oil
3. Let the vegetables sautee for a few minutes then add the ground beef and brown it evenly


4. Use a thin metal colander to drain the excess fat out of the meat
5. Place the meat back into the same pot and add the rest of the chili ingredients
6. Let the chili cook on a medium-low heat while stirring it every now and then
***If too much water evaporates, simply add more water and seasonings to maintain the bold taste



Enjoy!